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Issue 3 - The changing face of Jameson's

Whisky Magazine Issue 3
May 1999

 

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The changing face of Jameson's

Tim Atkin follows Jameson's from Dublin to the palm trees of County Cork and finds a whiskey that lightened up on the way

A visit to the Old Jameson Distillery in Bow Street, Dublin, with its heritage tour, audio-visual presentation and Irish coffee toffees, is bound to promote feelings of nostalgia and even sadness. At the peak of its output, John Jameson's was the largest distillery in the British Isles and the driving force of the Irish whiskey industry. Today, like its historic competitors in John's Lane, Jones Road and Thomas Street, its stills are as silent as a convention of Trappist monks.

A few years ago, things were grimmer still. In his book The Lost Distilleries of Ireland, Brian Townsend predicted that ‘by the end of the 20th century, Bow Street Distillery will have vanished forever'. The abandoned distillery was exposed to the elements (rarely enjoyable in Ireland) and was awaiting demolition prior to redevelopment. Alarmed at such a prospect, Irish Distillers bought back part of the site it has sold to the Office of Public Works in 1972 and created a heritage centre for tourists, using the building's original structure. ‘Jameson had built this place pretty soundly,' says the bow-tie-sporting Irish whiskey ‘ambassador', John Ryan. ‘The physical massiveness of the site and its intrinsic strength were still intact.'

It's tempting to draw parallels with the durability of Jameson whiskey here: John Jameson's brand has proved as indestructible as his original distillery. After difficult times in the 1970s and early to mid-1980s, Jameson has re-emerged as a spirit with an int...

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